The Portland Marathon 2014: trip and race report – Part I

8 Oct

Part I: Getting to Portlandia

While it is still fresh in my mind, I want to talk about my recent trip to Portland, OR. We got back earlier this afternoon, after a red-eye flight with connection in Atlanta, so I feel like a drunk simian with eyelids like sticky, cheap venetian blinds. The flights themselves were uneventful, except the Portland to Atlanta featured a full eclipse of the moon, which was pretty darned cool. Especially delightful was when, somewhere over the middle part of the West, I looked down and saw, reflected in a large body of still water, the half-eclipsing moon, and the lights from our plane. And nothing else. Because of this event, and because I watched American Hustle on one of Delta’s headrest screens, I did not sleep. This is the first time in many years I have gone without sleep for so long.


There was also a lady barfing in front of us, and a man who put his hands up over the back of his seat, continually blocking my movie screen, which was on the back of his seat, so technically, I guess, belonged to him. I would occasionally poke his hand to make him move it. He was usually asleep. Lucky him. Anyhow, I did not sleep well at all this week, and it is not for lack of a good comfy bed. We stayed in an Airbnb in Northeast Portland in the Albina Arts district with my two friends, Tobi and Megan, also doing the marathon (Megan her first.) My better half was doing the half (and despite being stopped mid-race by a train got a 1:38 and 6th in his age group…) My sister Liz did the Family 10K walk, also her first event. And my brother Pete spent the day Sunday making us a smoked pork shoulder.  More reason not to sleep. Because Portland is an eating town.

I also didn’t sleep well because I am worried about my Dad. More specifically, I worry about my Mom becoming tired and overwrought caring for my Dad. And in worrying or having anxiety about it, I also become tired and overwrought, but the kind of tired where sleep is elusive, and it is easier to do and distract.

So here goes. After not sleeping, I will attempt a trip report.

We arrived in Portland after flying all morning and passing the beautiful Mt. Hood from the air. This is not my shot but this is pretty much exactly how it looked from our plane:


We were to see this magnificent peak, and a few sisters and brothers, over the next week. But this was a first for me, and I was astonished.

The weather in Portland was an unseasonably warm 75 degrees and sunny, and dry, and stayed that way all week, and in fact, got a little warmer for the marathon. But on that first day, it was nice to see Portland in the sun. From the airport, we took the train downtown, picked up a bus heading back over the Willamette to the Division neighborhood, where my brother and sister-in-law live. They have a tiny little magical cottage called The Spider’s Knee. Tom and I found it with no problems, especially after viewing this sign, I knew it was their place:

courtesy P. Janes

We dropped our bags and went out to find some supper. Up on Division, we found Pok Pok, or it found us. Trust me, if you ever feel like killing a weekend and spending 350 bucks on a plane ticket, fly to Portland and eat at Pok Pok. Tom had the shoulder of boar and I had chicken skewers and let me tell you… Actually, no, let their website tell you. We didn’t know they were famous, only heard the clanking of forks upon dishes. That’s a sign. We were not disappointed. After dinner, we dog- -and-people-and-bike-watched from a coffee shop. We met the nicest folks, the nicest dogs. People are good in Portland.

On Thursday, Pete took us for a hike up Eagle Creek to Punchbowl Falls on the base of Mt. Hood. Enormous salmon flapped and flipped their exhausted selves up the rocky, near-dry river bed, many to a certain end. I have never seen fish that big or desperate. And the trees. Trees cartoonishly big.

We drove back through Hood River and over the Columbia into Washington, where the road twisted and turned. Surely Bigfoot lurked in the shadows ready to jump out and thumb a ride in Pete’s big red truck. The sun continued to shine on this day, making it hard to believe it ever gets dreary and damp. We came up alongside Bonneville Dam, and Beacon rock, and the enormity of these features along with the distant Mt. Hood reminded me that the Pacific Northwest is far different from our older, more rounded northeast geography.

On Thursday night, we checked in to our house, shopped at New Seasons and waited for Megan to get in from Indiana. This would be her first marathon.

We settled in, but I couldn’t sleep. Too much in my monkey brain. All those sights, I couldn’t decompress.

The next day, my sister Liz and later, my friend Tobi arrived. We met my sister downtown for Voodoo Donuts (the magic is in the hole.) I had the one with a dirty name that has oreos and peanut butter. Yum. This is my arm raising it in triumph.


courtesy M. McCulloch

It just kept getting better.

We took the train up to the airport to get a rental car and pick up Tobi. We ended up with Sparky the Unicorn, a teensy tiny Chevy in baby blue that ended up being a great choice (kind of like riding a quadracycle with a tin roof). Tobi loaded her bags in the miniscule trunk and we went back downtown to pick up our bibs at the marathon expo. We somehow managed to find my sister, got ourselves oriented for Sunday, and drove back to the airbnb house. That night, finally all together, we all seven of us ate out at the Kennedy School. Again, click the link. I can’t even begin to describe this place. Just imagine what would happen if someone took your old elementary school and turned it into a restaurants  / bar / movie theatre / gallery / event space. Yes.

Got up early on Saturday to tackle Mt. Hood. Are you starting to get the feeling that we are never going to rest up for the big marathon? You would be right. I was still waking up at East Coast four thirty, after going to bed at West Coast nine thirty, which meant I wasn’t really sleeping at all. But off we went, driving up Powell Avenue (Girls Girls Girls and oh, Home Depot, too!) until it became bucolic country and eventually led us to Mt. Hood. And up and up we went on the access road to Timberline Lodge. Once again, I will not spoil this for you, because I know you are already planning your trip to Portland, so make sure to add this destination to your itinerary. Sitting on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, built by the Conservation corps in 1938 and used as the exterior opening shot in the Shining, this place gave me the shivers and the awes. Poor Megan was ready to join the handful of snowboarders heading up the lift to sketch out a little of Mt. Hood. It was very scenic and at 6,000 feet, a good opportunity for inspiring long views of the cascades. Definitely a winner. We would have hiked, but the next day was race day, so we basically picnicked, got back in the car, and drove and drove some more along the fruit orchard area of Mt. Hood. Quite beautiful.

That night, we cooked spaghetti (gluten free for Tobi) and got ready for our big day the next day. I planned and plotted parking, logistics, and pinned my bib to my Narragansett Running Club top. We all went to bed early in order to get up early. Once in bed, I read, hoping to sleep. But I stayed wide awake til long past two.

*Part Two: The actual marathon, Monkey Logistics gone awry, and Recovery??? coming in the next few days…


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